Birthdays are always a fun treat because you get a whole day to celebrate you, and for nothing that you did in particular. I mean, I suppose you have to do something to make the friends who are here to celebrate with you, but realistically, your daily actions are not what make people want to celebrate your birthday.
[I guess if you really want to get picky, people love any reason for indulgence, and attributing that cause to someone’s birthday essentially eliminates the guilt one would normally feel after eating six pieces of cake or drinking an entire bottle of wine (i.e., “But it was her birthday, so it doesn’t really count.”) But I like to think better of people.]
Every year I am overwhelmed by the love I receive on my birthday. I’m not one to really hold the attention of a room and I am a terrible entertainer, so the fact that anyone would want to come to a dinner in my honor is a little beyond my comprehension. Yet somehow, every year, I always manage to trick some friends into celebrating with me, whether it’s over cookies and beer or chicken and waffles (maybe it’s the menu that keeps people around). And every year I am reminded of what true unconditional love really is.
It’s beautiful and it’s unearned. It’s undeserved but it’s celebratory. It’s pure and it’s real.
The Christian faith (and probably other religions, but I am naïve on these) talks a lot about this idea of unconditional love, and it often seems so far fetched and incomprehensible- like my tiny mortal brain could never come close to understanding it. I remember hearing lessons that, generically, taught that God loved me even though nothing I did deserved love. I was loved despite all my shortcomings, not within them. And I have to be honest: I really hate this image.
Sure, I am on board with the idea that love cannot be earned. What I do not agree with is this image that we do not deserve love, that we are so broken that we can’t deserve love and that we only are loved by the grace of God. It’s such a shame-inducing idea. All that mindset does is reinforce the idea in my head that I will never be enough and that I will never be good enough and that I do not deserve any of the good things in my life.
There are definitely other people in the world who are more deserving of good fortune than myself. I will never deny that. But celebrating my birthday every year has taught me this: I deserve love because I was born. You deserve love because you were born. There is nothing more complicated to it than that. I don’t mean to say that we only deserve love on our birthdays, one day a year. I think it is just easiest for us to see and accept that love on this day more than others. That’s definitely how it is for me.
I could end this by saying I’m going to take what I’ve thought about here and try to implement loving unconditionally into my daily life, but I know that is both cheesy and hard to quantify. I could also say something lame like “love everyone like today is their birthday,” but then we would both hate me. I guess all I can be happy saying is this: I hope you grow to learn that you deserve to be loved fully every day, not just on your birthday. It’s something I’m working on because I think once we can accept that we deserve love on a personal level, it becomes easier to grow and spread that love to the people around us.